Ahead of the Summit for Democracy, a virtual summit hosted by the United States to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad, Washington on Monday said that the country is watching Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s case in the Indian courts and is engaged with India on the shared commitment towards democratic principles and the protection of human rights, including freedom of expression.
“We are watching Mr Gandhi’s case in Indian courts and engage with the government of India on our shared commitment to democratic values including of course, freedom of expression. In our engagements with our Indian partners, we continue to highlight the importance of democratic principles and the protection of human rights and freedom of expression as key to strengthening both our democracies”, Vedant Patel, US Department of State’s principal deputy spokesperson, was quoted by ANI as saying.
While responding to a question regarding Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as a Member of Parliament, and whether that was “consistent with democratic values”, he told reporters at the State Department’s daily media briefing, “Respect for the rule of law and judicial independence is a cornerstone of any democracy.”
When asked whether the US is engaging with India or Rahul Gandhi, Patel said, “It is normal and standard for the United States to engage with members of opposition parties in any country where we have bilateral relationships but I don’t have any specific engagement to read out.”
The former Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad was disqualified following his conviction by a Surat court in a criminal defamation case over his “how come all the thieves have Modi as the common surname” remark in April 2019, at a Lok Sabha election rally at Kolar in Karnataka. The case against Gandhi was filed by BJP MLA from Surat West Purnesh Modi.
Rahul Gandhi, however, refuses to bow down despite being expelled as an MP. In a press briefing on Saturday, the Gandhi scion said that he will continue to ask questions on the Adani issue and fight for democracy in India.
“Even if they disqualify me permanently, I will keep doing my work. it does not matter if I am inside the Parliament or not. I will keep fighting for the country”, he had said.
Meanwhile, political tension in India is once again simmering after Gandhi’s disqualification from parliament last week. All the Opposition parties have united against Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, and have escalated their offensive.
On Monday, the Opposition leaders observed a “black day for democracy” and were dressed in black or wore black bands as part of their protest. On the same day, a notice was sent to Rahul Gandhi by the Lok Sabha House Committee to vacate his official bungalow by April 22.